We are here to improve our relationships with others
in order to transform the Jewish people in these urgent times.
Last week’s Stretch of the Week: Think of someone you have felt jealous of in the past and work on feeling pleasure in his/her accomplishments or good fortune.
(Please allow ONE person to share her experience with this exercise for ONE minute).
Respecting Others -- Kavod
In Pirkei Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers) (4:1) it says Ayzehu mechubad? Ha'm'chabed es habrios – Our Sages explain: “Who is honorable? Someone who shows honor and respect to other people”.
This teaches us that it’s not how other people treat us that make us honorable; rather, it’s how we treat others. Every human being is created in the image of HaShem (G-d), and is thus important and valuable.
Judaism teaches us that the word “kavod” comes from the word “ka'vaid” which means “heavy”. Every person has weight and must be taken seriously. Kavod HaBrios, the dignity of man, is given the highest priority in the Torah. Respect for another human being is not contingent on his merits but simply on his humanity.
(From Building your Self-Image by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)
Story: (based on a true story)
During my early teenage years I went through a very hard time. I suffered from low self-esteem for various reasons and therefore associated with the wrong crowd. I didn’t want to challenge myself to pursue any goal or dream; I just wanted to get by. I experienced negative feelings everyday. I had no role models or confidantes. The only way of expressing my frustration at that time was to rebel. I would often just “hang out” on the streets and think about partying. I avoided eye contact with people, dressed differently, and had an unkempt hairstyle. Often, I ran into relatives and neighbors who would either totally ignore me, or chastise me for being bringing shame to my family.
I didn’t need rebuke or a guilt trip. I didn’t need to be ignored or embarrassed. What I needed was love, care, and concern. I needed someone to treat me like a person and talk to me like I mattered.
One day, as I was sitting on a curb in front of a busy shopping area, the mother of an old friend from elementary school approached me. Mrs. Cohen had a big smile on her face and looked genuinely happy to see me. She said, “Hi! What a nice surprise! I haven’t seen you in so long! How have you been?” I wasn’t sure how to react, as I wasn’t accustomed to people speaking to me with such kindness.
Mrs. Cohen took the time to ask me about what was happening in my life. It was quite obvious that I wasn’t the same person she once knew but it didn’t seem to bother her. We finished our conversation and she walked away. For some reason, I hadn’t felt as good as I had at that moment for months. It’s not that she said anything monumental. She just treated me like a regular person. I even sensed respect in her voice. I hadn’t felt respected in a long time and it felt really good.
Over the next two weeks, Mrs. Cohen frequented the shopping area where we had met. She always made the effort to approach me and discuss whatever I was thinking about or feeling. One day, when she realized I hadn’t had a place to sleep on a consistent basis, she asked if I would consider joining her family for dinner and also invited me to sleep over for the night. Her door was always open and sometimes I accepted her offer, while on other nights, I needed my space.
I continued with my self-indulgent life style for several more months but Mrs. Cohen’s constant positive attention and nonjudgmental concern left a deep impression on me. I knew that if I needed anything, I could call her and she would be there. Eventually, I moved into her home and was able to turn my life around because of Mrs. Cohen’s love, care and concern.
I learned that one of the best gifts you can give someone is absolutely free. This gift is respect. When you show people respect you enable them to see their value and empower them to discover the unique contribution that they can make in the world.
Discussion Question Options:
How do people gain respect? How do people lose respect?
Is respect something that someone must earn or should we give it to anyone?
If someone suffers from a lack of self-respect what effect can your respectful behavior have on him or her?
How would one benefit if s/he were to act respectfully even to people who do not reciprocate respectful behavior?
Stretch of the Week:
Make it a point to acknowledge someone, through thought or action, although you may not have previously felt appreciation toward him/her.